The victory was by .112 seconds and was the first of the year for the four-time champion and his third at Kansas Speedway.
The win for Gordon was his first since Martinsville Speedway last fall and it earned him a place in the record book as the first winner of a night race at the track. Make that "another place" in the book as he won the first-ever Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway back in 2001.
By winning, Gordon, who started the race leading the series in points, virtually assured himself a spot in the season-ending Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
“It’s a weight lifted off this team’s shoulders,” Gordon said. “We’ve been leading the points but we needed to get to Victory Lane.”
He left Kansas with a 15-point lead over second-place Matt Kenseth.
“This has always been one of my favorite tracks,” Gordon said. “This was a very, very special win.”
Harvick finished second after leading the most laps – 119 – in the race and making an impressive charge to Gordon’s rear bumper on the final lap.
“Just ran out of laps at the end,” Harvick said.
He said running out of fuel as he headed to pit road on his final pit stop allowed Gordon to move past him and, ultimately, get the win.
“I was looking at the fuel pressure gauge instead of the tach and lost a bunch of time down pit road and off of pit road and wound up getting stuck behind the 24 (Gordon),” Harvick said.
Kasey Kahne, Gordon’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, finished third while Joey Logano was fourth. Fifth was a third Hendrick driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Rounding out the top 10 were Carl Edwards, Danica Patrick, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth.
Patrick had by far her best night on a non-restrictor plate track. She started ninth, hung tough for the first half of the race and then began moving forward. On Lap 162, she blew past both Tony Stewart and Earnhardt and moved to third place.
A slow pit stop during a caution that occurred on Lap 177 knocked her back to seventh but again, she hung tough and notched the best finish of her 57-start Sprint Cup career.
It was a fluke-free finish, too, teammate Harvick said. “She’s run well all weekend. Qualified well, raced well all night.”
“That was by far the most consistent up-front car” she’s had, Patrick said over her radio after the race. “All I wanted to do was stay up front and I did.”
Perhaps with an assist from Harvick, who has been having talks with the 32-year-old driver. What kind of talks?
“I guess one thing I did tell her was to quit thinking about it and mash the gas,” he said. “Sometimes your car is never going to be perfect and you just have to take what it will give you and expect that every time you pit it’s going to get better and if it’s not, you adjust and move on.”
Patrick said the talk with Harvick “definitely paid off in qualifying for sure. And it does pay off in the race, too.”
And her reaction at the finish?
“Honestly the most rewarding part of my night was probably when I drove around the outside of the No. 48 (Johnson) on a restart,” she said. “I say that with all the respect in the world. It’s a big deal because he is Jimmie Johnson. Aside from that I was really just overall proud that we stayed up front. That was the biggest thing"
Harvick broke clean from his pole position on the start and began to move out. By Lap 15 of the 267-lap event, he had a two-plus second lead. Behind him, the field was well spread out. By Lap 33, the lead was three seconds.
He would lead 89 laps in dominating fashion during the first half of the race.
However, the night went bad for Harvick when a spin by Marcos Ambrose on Lap 110 produced a caution. Harvick had pitted as the leader six laps earlier while most of the rest of the field did not. That put him a lap off the pace. He did get the free pass but when the race went green, but was outside of the top 15.
Harvick was not done, however. He slowly worked his way back forward and on a restart on Lap 195, climbed to third place. On a restart on lap 207, he restarted second, below leader Joey Logano, and moved back to the lead between Turns 3 and 4.
He lost the lead to Gordon during green flag pit stops 40 laps from the end and could never get back to the lead.
Asked if running out of gas heading into the pits cost him the victory, Harvick said, “I can’t say that. I mean, even though it was out of gas, with these EFI (electronic fuel injection) units, it still runs and I should have been paying attention to my pit road speed lights and should have gotten off pit road better.
“It was my fault coming down pit road too slow.”
The first night race at Kansas dashed some hopes.
Hopes for a victory by a hometown hero took a shot on Lap 47 when Kansas native Clint Bowyer of Michael Waltrip Racing snapped around on the backstretch. He kept his Toyota off the wall and clean. He dropped a lap off the pace, however.
Hopes for a victory on what he considers his home track were crushed for Springfield, Mo.’s Jamie McMurray after his car blew a tire, broke an oil line and burst into flames early in the race.
The start of the race was pushed back not by rain, but by lightning. It was not until after the cars had moved out onto the track for the parade laps that rain began to fall. But that was very light, quickly evaporated on the warm asphalt and the race was started after a 35-minute delay.
Johnson revisits Talladega incident
Jimmie Johnson must have a very big bucket sitting around somewhere at the Hendrick Motorsports campus in Concord, N.C. Either that or the bucket doesn’t have a bottom in it.
Johnson, a six-time Sprint Cup champion who has yet to win a race this season and, hence, does not have a Chase berth locked up, was asked several times Friday about the wreck he was involved in with Brad Keselowski a week ago at Talladega.
Was he angry about being wrecked? And by a driver six laps down? And on a day he had a very good car? Would he consider retaliation?
Johnson just shrugged.
“It’s plate racing and you just throw it in the plate (racing) bucket and move on,” Johnson said.
Does Keselowski, the Team Penske Ford driver whose aggression on a race track is well documented, need a talking to?
Again, Johnson said, “I personally think that what happened in Talladega just falls into that restrictor-plate bucket that we just kind of overlook a lot of things that take place at plate tracks.”
With Johnson, who has 66 career Sprint Cup wins, moving to race No. 11 on the 2014 schedule this weekend at Kansas still looking for that first victory, an increasingly familiar question was put to him on Friday: Is he starting to get concerned?
“Until we are not locked in I mean there is nothing to worry about,” Johnson said. “Where we sit in points right now we are locked in. Of course we want to win; we want to win every race we go to. We have been in the ballpark and have been very close to victory a couple of times and it got away. Yes, there have been some poor performances. We are trying to raise that. I don’t think that we are where we want to be as a team right now, but we have had a few looks at wins and I know we will get a few more. We just need to capitalize on that. If not, points still matter. There is a bigger window to make the Chase today than there was last year. Last year was 12, this year it’s 16. I don’t think there is anything to stress out about yet.”
Johnson is a two-time winner at Kansas. His average finishing position at the 1.5-mile oval is 7.5 – by far the best among all those who will take the green flag on Saturday night.
Tires get quick endrosement from drivers
The two NASCAR Sprint Cup practices are in the books at Kansas Speedway and the tires which Goodyear brought in for Saturday's 5-Hour Energy 400 are getting thumbs up from the competitors.
That’s good news for NASCAR, the speedway, Goodyear and competitors after some uneven results last fall at Kansas.
Last fall, many of the problems which surfaced occurred to the right side rubber on the 3,400-pound Cup cars. Goodyear returned to Kansas with new tires for that side of the cars this weekend. The left-side tires are the same as last fall’s.
Ryan Newman said, “I think they (Goodyear) have, at least at this point, made a good decision on the tire they brought. I think it’s the fastest we’ve ever been here; at least it feels like it to me here at this race track.”